The Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall dining facility is now permanently closed to civilians and retirees. The announcement was made on the morning of Jan. 20, and became effective Jan. 23.

The closure of the dining hall to these support groups was due to current funding constraints and fiscal responsibilities.

"In the new fiscal environment, I can no longer afford to provide the service to non-military customers," JBM-HH Commander Col. Carl R. Coffman said in a statement to the Pentagram. Signs throughout the JBM-HH DFAC and its entrance doors announced the change in dining eligibility. The signs were posted on Jan. 20 and over the weekend before the change and stated: "Effective 23 January 2012 Only Military Personnel May Dine in this Facility"

According to James Risek, Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall director of logistics, the decision will put the dining facility in line with most other facilities in the region which strictly feed servicemembers.

At Fort Belvoir, the dining facility closed to civilian diners a few years ago, and the reasoning was also to trim budget costs. "Each person subsisting in the DFAC raises the operating costs for the installation and the Army by increasing cleaning and maintenance costs as well as the cost of the food," Fort Belvoir Director of Public Affairs Donald N. Carr said in an email statement. "The funds collected per meal recoup less than half of the cost of food preparation and the cost of the items prepared."

Non-military personnel and contractors were not always permitted to dine at the JBM-HH DFAC. During the pre-9/11 terrorist attack era, the mess hall was a servicemember-only facility. After the 2001 attack on the Pentagon, which resulted in a bump up of nonmilitary employees on base, meals were made available to civilians who were working around the clock on the base and at the Pentagon crash and reconstruction site.

"An increase in force protection requirements made transitioning on- and off-post time consuming. To prevent lines at the gate, we allowed civilian employees to use the DFAC," Coffman said, further explaining the reasoning behind civilian use of the DFAC.

"There was never a requirement for civilian utilization -- it just saved time." Civilians are encouraged to use all Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation and Marine Corps Community Services food facilities and all food vendors located at the JBM-HH Post Exchange. In addition to these choices, expanded lunch hours are now available at Spates Community Club and The Old Guard Lounge at the Fort Myer Officers Club.